Shannon Ingram's Place

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Location: Orange County/CA

Musings of a woman who left her corporate career to become a caregiver for elderly parents, wrote a book and found her way back to corporate - with love, instead of fear, leading the way. Now working at my Alma Mater, UC Irvine, as Marketing and Communications Director for the School of Biological Sciences.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Ingram Holiday Letter


Only two more days till the end of this “learning year” – which is my second in a row. In case you don’t know, “learning” is another word for “yucky.” I’d say 2009 has been a learning year for a few other people too – Governor Mark Sanford and his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Dave Letterman, Tiger and Elin Woods. Oh it hasn’t been all bad, especially when it comes to sex. Unfortunately, sex with someone outside of your primary relationship can lead to a serious learning year. Thankfully that hasn’t been my problem!

My learning lessons in 2009 have been more in-your-face financial and family stuff – leaving our beloved home in Costa Mesa for a rental in Mission Viejo last January, watching our savings erode because my parents ran out of money to pay for their senior care needs, losing my precious stepdad, watching Mom decline into the indignity and despair of old age and feeling powerless to help her, and finding myself in the fray of my brother’s bipolar outbursts, which is like being thrown up against a brick wall of hate. Yes, I’ve felt battered by these experiences; and no, they haven’t kept me down for long. I think of them as part of “living deeply.” People living deeply have no fear of death….Anais Nin.

Every wonderful, newsy letter I’ve received from dear friends this holiday season reminds me that I’ve had those wonderful, newsworthy years in the past and will indeed have them again. As I write this, I’m enjoying the irony of Tony Bennett singing, “Smile though your heart is even though it’s breaking,” coming from AOL radio here at my desk. I smile a lot every day, which drives Gary crazy. He chipped a front tooth this year and hasn’t been to the dentist yet to get it fixed, so he just stopped smiling for a few months. The good news is he has grown a beard and with that he feels comfortable showing an occasional closed-mouth smile, especially when the grandchildren are with us.

Back to the wonderful, newsy stuff...I went to New England in the fall with my dear friend, Kathy J. We had a blast. And coming as it did in a painful learning year, this trip was like a sweet dream...Gary and I went to sea for the five-day WomanSage cruise and also enjoyed some fun visits to Pechanga Casino Resort and Spa in Temecula where I learned that penny slots are the only way to go. Maybe all the old people that go to casinos knew something I didn’t – that it’s fun to see those pennies mounting up. And then you leave...Our niece, Lindsey, graduated from University of Washington and we were there to celebrate with her...I reconnected with dear friends, Barbara and Susan, in Scottsdale earlier this month...We welcomed Oscar, our crazy Snowshoe cat, into the family in June. He instantly became the best friend of Bindi Sue, our Corgi-Australian Cattle Dog mix. They entertain us day and night with their antics, some of which I’ve chronicled in the blog, especially how they sleep together in the cat’s bed. At least theirs is not a relationship based on text messages.

“...Smile, and maybe tomorrow, you’ll see the sun come shining through...” sounds like a plan at the end of this learning year, Tony! That will be my champagne toast on New Year’s Eve at the Garner Ranch with Gary and my sister and her family - Meg, Ted and Hannah - as we look forward to sunshine and smiles in 2010. Wishing you a very Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Not-So-Silent Night

We had the pleasure of attending grandson Keegan's Christmas program at King of Kings Lutheran Church in Garden Grove tonight. This has become a new highlight of the holiday season in our lives. The program is a worship service, and tries hard to be serious business. Yet the joyful cacophony of pre-K to pre-teen voices singing their hearts out makes it difficult not to let out an equally joyful "YAY!!!" And that's what our 19 month-old granddaughter, Kendall, did after every song and every reading. Which of course caused old Granny here to laugh out loud. It didn't help that Keegan refused to sing and made funny faces for his mommy's flip video and his daddy's fabulous new camera (no flash allowed). Amazingly, when I started singing the words to his songs, he decided to sing too - and smile for the cameras. My guess is that I had nothing to do with it. His pre-K teacher was facing him and I'm sure she "suggested" that he start singing. Who knows?

This brief evening of song and scripture made my heart happy. I felt the essence of the reason for the season. A highlight happened when the esteemed kindergarteners YELLED their lyrics to "Away in the Manger" so loud that even the pastor's eyes got bigger.

What did Kendall have to say at the conclusion of this not-so-silent night? "YAY!" I couldn't agree with her more.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Through the Eyes of a Child

I posted on Facebook tonight that whoever said we experience the magic of Christmas through the eyes and hearts of children was brilliant. Some people might say, "duh." But for those of us who never had children of our own, it's not always easy to make that connection. Thankfully, it's easier for me now because I have grandchildren. Yes, I married into them. I married a man who had a good son - and that son married a wonderful woman and they have two adorable children. Believe me, none of us are perfect by any means. We're a family, with all its imperfections. But the good news is that we love each other - and we love our extended family members too. Most of all, we love the little ones - and for Gary and me, that's Keegan and Kendall.

The other night when we went to see the annual Newport Harbor Parade of Lights, everyone was a bit tired after we enjoyed a pre-parade dinner at Wilma's Patio on Balboa Island. Papa was coming down with a cold. Kendall was crabby and her parents scoped out a great spot on the South Bayfront sea wall very close to Marine, the island's main street where our cars were parked. That left only me and Keegan to venture off down the bayfront walk in search of homes with great light displays. I had the divine privilege of taking Keegan's hand and bustling through the crowds till we found the house with the Santa on a trapzeze that crosses the walkway, a merry-go-round of reindeer, Santas on the rooftop and enough lights to give the Griswolds a run for their money. Just as we arrived at this amazing display of lights-cameras-action, the first boat in the parade was arriving. I pulled out my camera and took these photos of my precious grandson merrily enjoying the harbor lights.

I've been to dozens of these parades since I was a child and none has been more happily moving for me than this one, spent with an incredulous, excited five year-old boy. This is the eternal gift of special holiday memories....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Friends in Low Places

My little buddies, Bindi Sue and Oscar, have been sleeping together every night in a little kitty bed that belonged to our big cat, Poudre, before Poudre left the planet a year ago. The kitty bed had been under our bed until I found it two weeks ago and pulled it out. I put it near the bedroom door with the intention of taking it to the garage for recycling. Didn't get around to it, so that night Oscar, our year-old male cat, slept in the bed. The next night, I looked down and saw that Bindi Sue had joined Oscar and they've been sharing the little bed ever since. Here are some photos to make you smile. Bindi and Oscar are my friends in low places!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Costco - Santa's Closet

I went to Costco at noon with my associate, Patty, to buy a digital camera for the winner of the Silverado photo contest. We knew that was our purpose - getting a single camera. But of course, it was Costco, so we came out an hour later with a basket overflowing with everything from gift bags to vodka, dog treats to cranberry juice, hot dogs for lunch, and yes, the camera.

Costco is like Santa's big closet. Immediately upon entering, we fell under its spell, picking up tins of cookies, ogling the jewelry display and trying to restrain ourselves from buying techie stuff we don't need. Patty selected a packet of iPod gift cards, then put them back. I had my hands on a digital "frame," started to put it into the basket then stuck it back on the shelf. Same thing with a little Flip video camera. I wanted it because it was yellow and that's Gary's favorite color and oh what great videos we could make of our grandchildren, dogs and cats. Bad Shannie! I slapped my own hand and placed the Flip back in its cardboard holder.

In the air at Costco there is definitely a feeling of Christmas - and the Costco elves were very friendly, offering us food and smiles as we walked the bountiful aisles. I heart Santa's Closet!

Monday, December 14, 2009

End of My Holiday Pity Party

I haven't been blogging much lately. It's been almost a month since my last post. Mom used to say, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." That's my justification for not posting a message - I've had nothing "nice" to say.

Yes, I have a good job, a roof over my head, adorable pets, food on the table, even a splendid fall vacation to New England with a girlfriend. And yes, going into the holiday season I have felt depressed about my mom's health, the death of my precious stepdad, the absence of my brother, Gary's heart condition, the economy, finances and recent letdowns by people I hold dear to my heart. People like to say, "It is what it is." More and more that seems to be part of what a young friend calls "word vomit." Whatever (another awful buzz word) - I've been like sad sack Eeyore on negativity steroids.

Since Halloween, everything in my life has been about forced simplicity. Cutting back on celebration, holiday decor and expenses, my focus has been on the frugality needed to pay the rent and monthly bills, especially for Mom. Channeling my inner Pollyanna, I've stayed awake numerous nights wondering if something special might happen to turn the tide of anxiety that plagued me.

Like a corny song, out of the blue of the vast Internet came a little miracle. I discovered Susan and Barbara, two girlfriends I knew in Honolulu but had lost touch with for a dozen years. They now live a mile from one another in the Phoenix area. Was it coincidence they were in a place named for a legendary bird that burned up in a fire and then came back to life in a powerful way that healed itself and others? For me, the discovery was another remarkable experience of synchronicity.

I traveled to visit my old friends the first week in December. Our reconnection was both healing and FUN. They had stayed close, bouying one another's spirits over the years. My presence was unexpected, yet we were able to pick up where we left off, weaving the stories of children, jobs, relationships, joys and hardships into each other's lives in a way that enriched us to the core. Like me, these remarkable women have endured all kinds of challenges, heartbreaks and joys since we lived in Hawaii, making "lemonade" - or lemon drop martinis - from all of it.

Our laughter carried us through three days of catching up. In our joy, we reached out to other women friends we missed from Hawaii and had lost touch with - finding them via Facebook and LinkedIn. Who knows, perhaps in 2010 we'll stage a reunion of every girlfriend we loved in Hawaii, who lived and worked together for a season. That special season may turn into lifetime of friendship after all.

My personal holiday pity party is over. I'm still struggling with the upheaval in my family and how to deal with it; but I feel blessed by the possibilities of renewal of cherished friendships from the past and the healing of more recent friendships challenged by present circumstances. And best of all, I know I have a foundation of close friends to depend on, in the same way they depend on me, to get through any and all challenges. Clarence, the angel in "It's A Wonderful Life," said, "No man is a failure who has friends." Amen.